Neal McDonald General Manager Sunset Cove Resort Holiday Inn Club Vacation
Neal McDonald began his hospitality career in 1989 as Front Desk Agent at a 250-room Holiday Inn Select in Orlando. During his five years at the hotel property, he also served as Front Desk Manager, Resident Manager and Food & Beverage Director. He returned to that location as General Manager/Regional Operations in 1999, ten years after starting as a Front Desk Agent.
For the next decade, he continued to climb the Kemmons Wilson Company ladder of success by serving as GM/Regional Operations, overseeing four Holiday Inn branded Central Florida hotel locations and eleven hotels in Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and Florida (Kemmons Wilson was the founder of Holiday Inn).
In 2004, Neal was tapped by the burgeoning Orange Lake Resort to become Senior Director of Guest Relations and later Senior Director of Resort Activities & Amenities for the massive Orange Lake Resort in Orlando. With its 2,486 units on 1,800 acres, it is regarded as the largest single-site timeshare property in the U.S.
Neal recalls that the pace was super fast. “I had to be everywhere on the property and supremely organized to supervise a team of 175 recreation and support services employees. Initially, interns were from an international hospitality academy we transitioned to in-house employees who often worked from sunup to sundown with non-stop activities, but it was an exhilarating job.”
Throughout his career, Neal has always applied the philosophy of company founder Kemmons Wilson: “Work only half of a day; it makes no difference which half. It can be either the first 12 hours or the last 12 hours.”
After 28 years with Orange Lake Resorts and the Holiday Inn brand, Neal remains dedicated to the spirit of the company. Prior to moving to Sunset Cove Resort on Marco Island in May, Neal was GM for three years at Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort. Neal has been recognized for his professionalism by earning ARDA’s prestigious ACE Spirit of Hospitality Award in 2013 and the Holiday Inn Club Vacation’s 2016 Resort Award for Excellence in Guest Experience.
Today, Neal guides a staff of 20 as General Manager of the 36-unit, seven-story Sunset Cove Resort on Marco Island, Florida. The resort’s villas are all three-bedrooms and range in size from 1,650 to 1,900 square feet, some with three baths and require a higher point value for reservations. The resort features guest boat docking for water access to the canals, mangroves and the Gulf of Mexico.
“The pace on Marco Island and the size of the property is decidedly different and more relaxed than my previous properties,” says Neal. “This gives me more time to engage with our owners on a daily basis and help them create memorable vacations. Because these loyal owners love to travel within our system, I have been able to welcome many who were guests when I worked at other locations.”
Sunset Cove is part of the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Signature Collection portfolio, which features luxury villa accommodations in an upscale environment at eight resorts from Florida to Nevada. The resorts were meticulously planned to deliver a superior vacation experience for discerning travelers. It is also an affiliate of RCI’s The Registry Collection.
Originally from Massachusetts, Neal attended Roger Williams University in Bristol Rhode Island and has been married to his wife Janet for 36 years. They have two children, one granddaughter and a second granddaughter arriving in October. When away from work, he enjoys cruising, being a beach bum, and is actively involved with his church, several charities and Outreach projects.
“As a family, we did move quite a bit,” says Neal. “But I honestly believe this helped to make my children able to quickly adapt to changing environments. It is a characteristic they have taken into adulthood and been helpful in their careers.”
This high-energy 61-year old manager concludes, “I consider myself truly blessed and fortunate to be able to work for a family-owned company that has such high values and concern for its owners. These values trickle down to management and company employees, adding to the joy of working for this company.”
Harvey Legette General Manager Lehigh Resort Club Defender Resorts
General Manager Harvey Legette truly believes “you are only as good as your staff.” He knows that his resort ¬ – with a nine-hole golf course sitting on 75 acres – takes an entire team of professionals to keep everything working smoothly. “It helps that we have many seasoned employees and a stable staff, some of whom have been here over eight years. They are amazing and dedicated to every owner and guest. Having a realistic and functioning board also makes for a terrific work environment.”
Lehigh Resort Club is truly a “Legacy” resort, due to its opening over 30 years ago. Today, the resort features 154 units of various sizes in a campus-style facility in 10 two-story buildings. There is also a main building for the front desk, weight room, snack shack, and indoor shuffleboard, plus a large recreation room.
Because the property is not on a beach or waterfront location, the resort keeps owners busy with a full schedule of activities … including movie night, special sporting events, card games, and crafts for all ages hosted by the Activities Department. There are also games, shuffleboard tournaments and a day spa for a little TLC and relaxation for guests.
The resort’s 27-person staff includes six supervisors that oversee front desk, activities, maintenance, pro-shop, golf course and housekeeping, with housekeeping contracted out. All provide top service to the resort’s 6,400 owners.
Harvey adds, “The golf course has been a main attraction since the resort purchased the land in 2005, which included the golf course. Many of our Owners golf, especially in season, between November and April. Having the nine-hole Par 37 golf course on property allows guests to enjoy golfing without having to locate other area courses. Our course features three Par 5 holes, which really challenge even an avid golfer. We offer several special plans to local golfers so they can choose one that best fits their playing needs. Many of our outside reservations come through Golf Now, an online booking service for golf course tee times.”
According to Harvey, “One of our greatest accomplishments has been earning the respect of owners after the resort management changed to Defender from the previous company that had been in place for 12 years. Today, we are focused on providing what new and old owners want and expect. One of these is having a good Wi-Fi system with top reception throughout every corner of the property. We are currently collecting bids to upgrade this service in 2018. We are also making cosmetic updates to the units as well as exterior paint and enhanced landscaping, all great ways to improve the appearance of an older property. To attract younger families, we are in the process of updating our pool and possibly adding a splash pad for children.”
Much like other older timeshare resorts, many owners have been returning for more than 30 years and have watched fellow owners’ families grow with their children and grandchildren purchasing units to continue the annual tradition.
Harvey has been at Lehigh Resort Club for 3 ½ years. He was previously Assistant Manager of the Beach House Golf and Racquet Club in Myrtle Beach, SC, and served as the Corporate Trainer, transitioning employees at six properties and training them in Defender reservation systems as well as policies and procedures. Earlier, he managed three Defender properties in Ocean City, Maryland before returning to Myrtle Beach to be with his family. Harvey holds a BS degree in Human Services from Wingate University in North Carolina, and a Community Association Manager license. He has two daughters and twin grandsons who proudly call him “Grand Dude.”
While reflecting on his time in timeshare, he concludes, “In our business, you meet different people every week accompanied by different problems. This translates to never a monotonous moment within a constantly changing environment. The best way to improve the vacation experience is by truly listening to the needs of the guests. Frankly, this career snuck up on me but has turned into a real passion. Most folks don’t realize the research and analysis required to maintain a resort of this magnitude. The challenge of new projects can be demanding but something I thoroughly enjoy.”
Matt Fox Timeshare Resort Director Hilton Grand Vacations at South Seas Island Resort
As Resort Director for Hilton Grand Vacations at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, Matt Fox and his team conduct all of the business, housekeeping and maintenance affairs for the 120 two- and three-bedroom timeshare units located within 13 buildings on the 330-acre resort on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida.
Matt’s management team of nine HGV employees, including Assistant Manager Nancy Dean – plus nearly 60 contracted team members for housekeeping services – handle administration and maintenance for eight HOAs on the property representing 6,106 owners. Each of his managed properties has its cookout facilities and most their own pool.
His vacation ownership resorts are unique because they are located within the confines of the gated and self-contained 330-acre luxury resort, which also features multi-million dollar homes, nearly 500 rental accommodations,10 tennis courts, multliple swimming pools, a 9-hole golf course and 4 restaurants. Resort trolleys carry the guests to island attractions. The resort is often frequented by celebrity guests.
Explains Matt, “Being located on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico has its challenges. When planning the financial portion of construction or renovation projects, for example, I must remember to include additional funds for numerous tolls, trip charges, and occasionally off-island worker housing. We also have to consider additional time to receive supplies, deliveries, etc. Our linen is brought in from the mainland which brings other challenges.
Matt has been with Hilton Grand Vacations for 14 years, and at the Captiva Properties for nearly three years. He began his career with HGV at The Charter Club of Marco Beach® on Marco Island as Assistant Resort Manager and then transferred to HGV-managed Surf Club on Marco as Resort Manager. Later he returned to The Charter Club as Resort Manager. He started in his current role at South Seas Island Resort in May of 2015.
According to E. J. Nees, HGV Area Director Sanibel Captiva, “Matt is a very high-energy, hands-on management professional with a delightful sense of humor. With eight boards, eight budgets and reserve schedules and over 6,000 owners, he receives a steady stream of daily emails but amazingly manages to provide highly detailed responses and keeps his boards up-to-date about resort happenings, including a current $2.4 million, interior and exterior 8-month phased renovation. He has a contemporary viewpoint on interiors, which he adds to his decisions.”
The South Seas timeshare resorts were originally built in the late 70s by the Mariner Group. The most recent one was completed in 2004. Adds Matt, “Because of our island location, our interiors are more casual and coastal than what some guests may find in an urban property. Through the magic of maintenance fees and solid management, we have been able to implement current design trends into these properties. Our owners tell us that the resorts look as good or better today as when they were first built. We are proud of that.”
Originally from Ohio, Matt began his hospitality career in 1988 working at a small economy chain of properties. After moving to Florida ten years later, he held a variety of management positions in different properties, including extended-stay chains and larger resorts such as The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club in Naples.
Matt adds that two of his favorite hobbies are photography and travel. “Although I have not had much time for travel recently, I have been fortunate to have visited all 50 states and more than 20 countries including China and Egypt. The more than 20 cruises I’ve taken over the years have enabled me to visit numerous locations during one vacation. My next big adventure with family and friends will be to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.”
“Working in the timeshare industry and with Hilton Grand Vacations affords me the opportunity to enhance thousands of peoples’ vacations a year. The time that people take for themselves to disconnect, relax, and explore is also the time they make their best memories. Working with an industry-leading company in this tropical setting is not ‘working’ at all – my team and I have the unique opportunity to participate in countless vacations every day and help ensure that the memories made are great ones.”